Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dear Santa

This is a fairy mom with a butterfly on her head. This morning we wrote to Santa. My oldest daughter sealed the envelope and we stuck it in the mailbox. Phew, only six more days til Christmas. Well, that was before I discovered my girls' card to Santa on the kitchen counter. We sent an empty envelope. Back to the drawing board.

This year we are writing to the Canadian guy, because he does reply. Last year, he even replied right on Christmas day which was a fantastically unbelievable good timing. The Finnish guy was pretty good too but his reply reached us in April and by then our heads were full of eggs and chocolate bunnies. The Swedish Tomte would have been very authentic had his letter not been returned to me for "invalid address" reasons. Heartbreaking. We wrote to the French Pere Noel but alas he forgot to reply to us therefore we're not writing again this year.

Next year I want to try a Dutch Sinterklaas and why not an Australian Santa surfing on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Puppet Show

Opening Act
Kudos to my mother for spending countless hours on her sewing machine last year with needle and thread. This year was the second year I was performing Clement Moore's poem "Twas the night before Christmas" with hand puppets at Big City Montessori School and the children loved it.

Picture this. One hundred children seated neatly in rows, bursting in laughter when a cat appears on stage instead of a mouse. "That's not a mouse!" they all shout. Of course, "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" doesn't work with a cat. But that's the point. The cat comes back three times and the more he shows up the louder the laughter. Ah, then and only then does the mouse appear. "Watch out! The cat is chasing you!" yell the children. Good chasing scene (narrow escape for the mouse) and then we proceed with the narrative.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

Our puppet children of course were wide awake, kicking and jumping on each other. Another roar of laughter in the crowd. They find this hilarious, particularly the giggling little sister in blue. The narrator (my friend Lisa) asks to the children if they shouldn't go to bed but they won't do it. So a deep voice comes from behind the stage.
"Off to bed children!"
The children's dad appears and the children go to bed. We could not resist another hide-and-seek scene so the dad went looking for Santa Claus three times in odd places (the cellar, the kitchen and finally his shoes) while Santa Claus and a string of tiny presents danced through the air.

'There's Santa! There's Santa!" yell the children again.
Sleepy after a long day, the dad tries to go to sleep but the naughty cat trakes away his pillow three times. Big success the pillow scene!

Second Act
The scene opens up with the dad still looking for Santa. Fortunately the cat helps out and suggests to the crowd that they should sing a song starting by "meow meow meow". The children picked up on it right away and before we could ask them to sing, they were all singing in unison "Jingle Bells". I was blown away. What an audience!

The lovely part in this scene was playing the Nutcracker's Flower Waltz while having Santa and Rudolph deliver the presents at the foot of the tree. This being San Francisco and there being a candle holder on the fireplace of the set, some children exclaimed
"There's a menorah!"
Yes, everybody here has a menorah AND a Christmas tree. PC baby.

Third Act
Once we lifted the curtain on a snowy city landscape, the children started "oohing" and "aahing" and some started clapping, others said that these were wonderful gingerbread houses and finally all the childen were clapping just in appreciation of the set. Wow. My mother better be proud of herself.

At that point, the fun part of the act was the dad discovering the presents and an odd looking creature on stage: a musical Tyrolean marmot! Yes, to the children's excitement, the marmot starts yodeling and swaying after you push a button in her left foot. That's what you get for attending a retail client event at the Bier Fest in Munich.

It was time for us to close the act and do our goodbye dance. We started playing "Feliz Navidad" and before we knew it, all the children joined in the singing. All my puppets came on stage for a final bow and so did I.
Puppets work like crazy with children. I still can't get over it and I'm thrilled beyond belief. I've asked a marine scene set to my mother. My next goal is an underwater "The three little clams and the big bad shark".

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz Carlton

A Teddy Bear Tea is not a tea where you have to bring your teddy bear. It is not a tea where you make a teddy bear. The San Francisco Ritz-Carlton's Teddy Bear Tea is a holiday extravaganza complete with Binky the Elf singing pop songs and directing an impromptu orchestra of children, a human-size teddy bear walking around to hug boys and girls, a pianist accompanying all the songs and of course, high tea (or hot chocolate depending on your size).

My girls were mesmerized. Actually, first they were starving because the tea started at 1 pm and I didn't want them to snort over their plate of bite-size sandwiches and cookies. Therefore light lunch. Therefore big appetite at the table. They both exclaimed "Oh, vitamins!" when they saw the gummy bears on their plate and devoured them, without even glancing at the teddy bear cookie or miniature cupcakes. My plate was more sophisticated but not quite up to the quality of the Fairmont Hotel where I'd been the previous month.
Say, I could have used some Devon cream with my scones instead of whipped cream. I love Devon cream with my scones. Never mind the cream. The real crime was offering me Breakfast Tea at 1 pm. I'm a die-hard tea fan and I don't understand how a five-star hotel cannot offer better than mint tea, chamomile tea or breakfast tea at 1 pm when the bill comes up to a hefty $75 per head. Now the entertainment part.

This being San Francisco, Binky the Elf was a Tim Curry in green pants and pointy shoes. Honestly, what elf sings "The Age of Aquarius" from the soundtrack of Hair with more gusto? As he changed props for each new song, Binky the Elf donned pink wigs, sunglasses, platinum blonde long hair, curly hair and would have put to shame any good old drag queen show in the Castro. My daughter was a bit confused but I was in tears. He was so funny and talented. His impersonation of Hairspray songs or Dream Girls songs were hilarious. I understand why my 4-year-old was puzzled but I loved it. My 2-year-old on the other hand was throwin a major tantrum and herself on the floor. Tea is not a toddler's favorite past time. Never mind. Now I'd actually like to try out other holiday teas. It's fun!